One of the greatest weaknesses for the Detroit Red Wings this season has been the lack of legitimate top-four talent on the left side of their defensive corps, but that will soon be changing. Moritz Seider looks like an absolute star in the making as the leader of the right side of their defence for the next decade, however, he hasn’t had much help from the rest of the team’s defenders.
No Red Wings defender has spent more time on the ice with Seider than Danny DeKeyser, who is certainly not viewed by the team as the long-term line-mate for Detroit’s rising star. Marc Staal, Jordan Oesterle and Jake Walman are fine but do not have the top-four upside that Detroit will need in order to eventually propel themselves out of their rebuild and into contention. Walman, who was part of the return from the St. Louis Blues for Nick Leddy, has played well enough in Detroit to earn a try-out next season, though it is unlikely he has any kind of top-four upside. This lack of depth will soon be remedied, as some significant help is on the way.
That help will be coming in the form of two young Swedish defenders who are primed to take over the left side of Detroit’s defence as soon as the 2022-23 season. Last week, it was announced that Red Wings prospect William Wallinder (32nd overall pick in 2020) was named the best u20 player in Sweden’s top men’s league, the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). The 6-foot-4 defenseman won’t turn 20 until July and has improved remarkably this season after being called up from Rögle BK’s u20 team to their SHL club mid-season.
Wallinder gradually earned the trust of his coaches and teammates in the SHL, with his role expanding from acting as the SHL club’s seventh defenseman to finishing the season as one of the team’s most important and reliable players. A tall defenseman known for his excellent skating, Wallinder projects as more of a two-way defender than an offensive defenseman due to his puck skills being not quite up to par yet with NHL offense. Regardless of some of the doubts that surround his offensive game, Wallinder was tied for the league lead in points by a u20 defenseman and was tied for 22nd in the SHL among all defensemen with 19 points in 47 games.
The Future of Detroit’s Left-side Defence
Wallinder will play a significant role in the coming transformation of the Red Wings’ left side along with 2021 sixth overall pick Simon Edvinsson, another tall lefty (6-foot-5) who played in the SHL this season. I mentioned above that Wallinder was tied for Points among all u20 defenders? Well, the player he tied with was Simon Edvinsson. These two players alone are poised to turn the Red Wings’ left side into one of the organization’s greatest strengths. It may take a few years before Wallinder and Edvinsson impose themselves at the NHL level as they have in Sweden, but fans could expect to see one or both playing in North America as soon as next season.
Edvinsson signed his entry-level contract with the Red Wings on Sunday that will take him through to the end of the 2024-25 season. With the lack of top-four upside on the left side that I mentioned earlier, don’t be surprised to see Edvinsson on the starting night lineup for the Red Wings next Fall. Wallinder could very well make his way over to North America next year as well, though I would bet on him playing one more season in Sweden before battling it out for a top-four spot behind Edvinsson where they will both likely be franchise mainstays for the next decade or so.
Wings Prospects Named Best u20 Players in SHL Two Years in a Row
This is the second year in a row that a Red Wings prospect has been given the honour of the SHL’s best u20 player. A 19-year-old defender by the name of Seider (you may have heard of him) won the award at the conclusion of the 2020-21 SHL season. While Wallinder isn’t likely to win the SHL’s award for the league’s best defenseman or compete for the NHL’s Calder Trophy as Seider has, he is still an excellent prospect for a team in dire need of some help on defense, especially on the left side.
The Red Wings have had a rough year defensively with Seider providing a lone bright spot, however, he will not be asked to carry such a heavy burden for much longer. Defenders such as Edvinsson and Wallinder will arrive in the NHL soon, followed by Albert Johansson (21, LD), Donovan Sebrango (20, LHD), Jared McIsaac (21, LHD), Antti Tuomisto (21, RHD), and Shai Buium (18, LHD) to name just a few of the Red Wings’ many defensive prospects.
The lack of positional depth on defence in Detroit will soon become an absolute embarrassment of riches as their prospects continue to develop and grow. Red Wings fans will have a front-row seat to watch the dramatic shift that is coming in Detroit’s d-corps as the defensive prospects all hope to make their way to the NHL and American Hockey League over the next few seasons. The cupboards are stocked full of defenders with NHL potential, and now all that’s left to do is wait.
Logan is a sports writer for the Detroit Red Wings as a member of The Hockey Writers team. He loves reading about statistics and advanced analytics, and discovering how they can enrich his hockey analysis and writing. Logan also writes about more general hockey topics on his blog https://www.crashthecrease.blog.